Physical Layer Security: About Humans, Machines and the Transmission Channel


  • Christoph Lipps German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence
  • Hans Dieter Schotten German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence



In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world in which the volume but also the confidentiality of transmitted content is becoming ever more important, trust, confidence and trustworthiness are of fundamental importance. Particularly in human societies, this trust is established, sustained and strengthened by personal relationships and experiences. But, in a globally connected world with Cyber-Physical Production Systems (CPPS), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Digital Twins (DTs), these personal relationships do not longer exist. (Remote) access to systems is possible from anywhere on the globe. However, this implies that there have to be technical solutions to detect, identify and acknowledge entities -people and machines- in the networks and thus to establish an initial level of trust.

Especially since the proliferation of appropriate use-cases, Physical Layer Security (PhySec) is becoming increasingly popular in the scientific community. Using systems' intrinsic information for security applications provides a lightweight but secure alternative to traditional computationally intensive and complex cryptography. PhySec is therefore not only suitable for the IIoT and the multitude of resource-limited devices and sensors, it also opens up alternatives in terms of scalability and efficiency. Moreover, it provides security aspects regarding the entropy H and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS).

Therefore, this work provides insight into three major branches of PhySec: i) Human - Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs) ii) silicon/electrical - PUFs, and iii) Channel-PUFs. Based on the PUF operating principle, the silicon derivatives consider the electrical properties of semiconductors. Individual and uninfluenceable deviations during the manufacturing process result in component-specific behavior, which is described in particular for Static- and Dynamic Random Access Memory (S-/DRAM). Following this PUF principle, human characteristics -biological, physiological and behavioral features-, are used to recognize and authenticate them. With respect to the wireless channel, the characteristic properties of electromagnetic wave propagation and the influences on the wireless channel -diffraction, reflection, refraction and scattering-, are used to achieve symmetric encryption of the channel.

In addition to the "conventional" wireless PhySec, especially the development of the Sixth Generation (6G) Wireless Systems, opens up a wide range of possibilities in terms of PhySec, for example in relation to Visible Light Communication (VLC), Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS) and in general the application of frequencies in the (sub)THz range.

Thus, the work provides an overview of PhySec fields of application in all areas of the IIoT: in terms of humans, machines, and the transmission channel.